In the Black

Twisted Roots return to prominence with their first full-length since 1999
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  June 20, 2007
STRONG RETURN: Twisted Roots.

If Rustic Overtones are seeking a model for their whole getting-back-together thing, they need look no further than their once and future contemporaries Twisted Roots (that they both played here so often in the late ’90s may be one reason some people think Rusted Root are from Maine and not Pittsburgh). After a successful run and dalliance with Boston indie Cherry Disc (Letters to Cleo, Semisonic) and the major labels, Roots called it quits in 2000, only to get the jones and start playing again in 2004, first with a “reunion” show that blossomed into gigs here and there and finally a soft-comeback EP in 2005, The Seed.

This month, Twisted Roots transformed their “reunion” into a forward-looking intent to bestride Portland once again and develop a new crop of fans who dig terrifying guitar solos and teeth-rattling vocals. Older and wiser, the band are still menacing and dark, but they’re, like, in touch with their emotions and stuff.

12 Skies Fire and the Black is more nuanced and agile than nine songs have any business being, displaying fine dexterity in moving from self-assured rock to metal and brimstone. “New Monday” eases you into Twisted waters with Pete Giordano doing his best Ronnie van Zant over strummed acoustic guitar, but the longest tune on the album leaves room for plenty of strutting guitar — bomb, bomb, chicka, chicka, bomb bomb, chicka chicka (sorry to use such technical music-critic terminology there). Giordano’s voice is absolutely mint on “Monday,” a lesson for everyone else in this town in how to use the falsetto properly. You might notice more Southern and classic rock than in the past, but the Roots can still “put you in your place” and hold that last note for a solid 10-count, before leading into a ripping guitar solo from Adam “Mr. Powers” Powers. After finishing with the same gently strummed acoustic guitar, Giordano, “Does it feel alright on this Monday/And does it feel just like a Tuesday?” I’m not sure why, but that winds up sounding deep, and Giordano sounds like Chris Martin just dumped Gwyneth for Joan Jett.

“Three Doors of Hell” is more like your older brother’s Twisted Roots: “two-fisted drinking, chain smoking, intentionally wasting my time.” Here you find a classically growling Giordano, angry, though sometimes lower in the register he comes off a little thin, like maybe he used to have more bottom. Still, there’s a nice marriage in the second verse of the falsetto and the lower growl in doubled vocals that are well mixed by engineer Lance Vardis, who manned the knobs for Roots albums of yore like Communication and the EP Red. When the tune breaks down to just Mark Lennon’s bass, with Sonny Robinson’s drums bleeding in, the rhythm section builds palpable anticipation for the upcoming guitar shred.

“I am like you, a fly on the wall,” Giordano finishes. “I am human and I bleed/I’m in my time of ...” The “need” gets left off and the couplet is never finished, the vulnerability never quite confirmed.

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